Monday, August 20, 2007

a particular Kerry James Marshall piece...

The other day i was thinking about a trip to the mca i made back when i lived in chicago. I took an afternoon to the museum to see the Kerry James Marshall show , and although not overwhelmingly "throw my hat down on the floor" blown away, i really enjoyed most of what i saw. As i sat and watched a bio/interview video featuring the artist, i even felt like i was seeing work by a pretty common, decent guy (i later learned from a friend that he was kind of an ass during installation... ah well).

Regardless, the other day i was thinking about one piece in particular that really got me. I wish i could find an image of it to share, but i haven't been able to find anything when i search online. My description will have to suffice for now...

First off, look at this famous photo:

now... Kerry James Marshall made a triptych of large photographs that were probably actually screenprint phototransfers, where the three individual pictures were all the same - all this image shown above. Look at everyone's faces. Almost everyone's attention is diverted away from the awful scene in front of them, and re-focused on the photographer's lens, in some sort of an appalling group celebratory picture. See the three women in the foreground (middle-left) who are looking directly at the camera? They almost look like "hey! - smile! - i'm on camera!" as if nothing at all is wrong. Kerry picked these three white women - one each for the triptych pieces - and drew these elegant little nooses around their faces. He created these cutesy, yet well-drawn jewelry pieces — if my memory serves me right, pearl and diamond necklaces — around their necks, and screened everything else back by 50%. He made you, the viewer, focus in on these ladies' blatant disregard towards the ultimate act of racism right in front of them. It read to me like an elegant little "fuck. you." that came partly from extreme anger and partly from a deep, deep sadness. Elegance juxtaposed with absolute horror. It hit me hard. If I ever do come across images of this piece, I'll certainly post them and write an update.

well, what do you know. some more snooping this morning brought me to the title of the piece - "Heirlooms and Accessories" - which brought me to an image to share. The background is much more screened back than I had remembered. Click on the thumbnail below:

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